Are You An Innie Or An Outie? Concealed vs. Open Carry

An excellent way to start a good old-fashioned bar fight, or at least an internet happy-slap chat spat, is to gather two groups of gun people. One who believes in Open Carry and another who believes in Concealed Carry. Then ask them whether Cher is a true Diva or not. While we won’t attempt to solve that debate here, we will briefly define each in the context of holster selection.

Open Carry [oh-puh n] [kar-ee]

  1. Act of possessing, wearing and transporting one or more firearms in a publicly visible and immediately accessible manner on one’s person.
  2. Proponents believe that clear visibility of armed status will deter evil dudes from doing evil things.
  3. See also: Lone Ranger, The Terminator, Wyatt Earp
Galco Small of Back Holster

Here’s an example of “open butt carry” with a Galco Small of Back Holster. Technically you should use a cover garment as “open butt carry” is kind of ridiculous.

At the time of this writing, only 7 states had no provision at all for legally carrying a gun via open carry. On the other end of the spectrum, about 12 states allow open carry with little if any restriction — excepting of course areas where guns are not allowed by Federal law or other restriction. All of the others have some provision for open carry. Some require permits to do so. Others have country and city ordinances that impact open carry.

Many proponents of open carry insist that a right not exercised is a right lost, and therefore want to increase the incidence of open carry to make it mainstream. A related benefit to frequent open carry is that over time, the general public will become desensitized to seeing guns in public. After encountering law-abiding citizens throughout their daily travels, and seeing no adverse impact, folks will figure out that citizens exercising open carry are in fact normal too. You have to admit that desensitization works. When Paris Hilton hits the New York club scene with 3 ducks, Ryan Seacrest and an ill-tempered llama, who even notices?

Concealed Carry [kuh n-seel-duh] [kar-ee]

  1. Act of hiding, withdrawing, and removing a gun or other weapon from public observation while still keeping it accessible on one’s person.
  2. Proponents believe that it’s better to give (by surprise) than to receive. Proponents also believe in the tactical advantage of remaining anonymous until the time and place of their choosing.
  3. See also: Armed citizens, Domestic Terrorists (as seen by the media), Sneaky Bastards, Responsible Law Abiders

Concealed carry is far more prevalent legally speaking. Only one state in the union has no provision for concealed carry, and that is Illinois. At the time of this writing, lawsuits are in progress aiming to change that. Also, the District of Columbia has no concealed carry provision, unless you are a high-ranking politician and therefore not subject to laws for us little people.

Gun Words Explained!

Terminology Alert: Distrikt of Columbia

The District of Columbia is a foreign dictatorship conveniently located between Maryland and Virginia. Holsters are generally not used there as carrying a gun is outlawed for common people. One notable exception is “private parts holsters.” Politicians like to send photos of those with their cell phones.

Your personal carry decision, and therefore, your holster selection decision, could more likely to be a tactical issue than a legal one. Barring political objectives mentioned, many concealed carriers believe they hold a tactical self-defense advantage when no one else knows they are armed. Concealed carry theory suggests that the only time you want a potential threat to know about your gun is the instant when it is used. If your gun is visible, you may, in fact, deter crime. Or you may become the first target. We won’t get into that tactical debate in this book.

For our purposes, the outside the waistband holster section features holsters most appropriate for open carry. If you’re not worried about hiding your gun, you might as well choose the carry method that is both most accessible and most comfortable. For most folks, that would be via a belt holster with the gun mounted outside the pants or skirt.

Read more about hundreds of ways to carry a gun in The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Buy The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters at


  1. Rob.G says

    I don’t open carry to make a point or prove anything. I’m much too old for that.

    I open carry for the same reasons that cops do. It’s much easier to access and makes for faster draws. Plus, it’s more comfortable for me to open carry on my body.

    Once you start open carrying, it actually feels silly to conceal.

    • Kenny B says


      For me, it depends on where I am going, what I’m wearing and how long I plan to be out.

      Being very aware of my surroundings and that my family members, I know that I have the advantage either way. Both methods of carry are comfortable and with practice are equal in speed once mastered.

      Kenny B

      • Rob.G says

        Kenny makes an excellent point about being extra aware of your surroundings when you open carry.

        Even though I have an active retention system on my holster, I’m still rather cautious of how I position myself in relation to other folks in public. It doesn’t consume me, but I’m very conscious of it.

        Because I’m chatty and smile often, I find most folks don’t even notice I’m carrying. And those who do, never have a negative thing to say about it.

        • says

          Excellent points re: the importance of awareness. It’s amazing how few people know what’s going on within 20 feet of them at any given time.

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